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Evolution and revolution: How Manchester United and Manchester City have become this season’s football superpowers

Martyn Cooke

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The new football season may still be in its infancy but there is little doubt as to which two English clubs have hit the ground running.

Here, The Boot Room takes a look at the footballing evolution and revolution being facilitated by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola respectively as the two Manchester clubs make the early headway in the race for domestic and European silverware.

Ruthless, powerful and dangerous – Mourinho’s Manchester United evolution

When Jose Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford supporters knew exactly what they would get.

The Portuguese maestro is perceived by many onlookers in the football world to arrogant and confrontational, indeed some of his antics in the past certainly demonstrate that he has a dark side, and yet wherever he lays his hat trophies are guaranteed to follow. His first year at Old Trafford was a season of transition which resulted in a relatively disappointing league campaign but culminated in domestic and European cup success. However, United have hit the ground running this season and look more ruthless, powerful and dangerous than ever.

If history is anything to go by, then when a Mourinho team starts to blow away teams with ease then it is time for his rivals to be concerned.

United have won nine out of their last 10 games in all competitions, scoring four goals in six of those contests and keeping seven clean sheets. They have nonchalantly swatted away the opposition and only Stoke City have been able to disrupt their momentum.

Last season Mourinho’s side were crippled by fifteen drawn games, ten of which were at Old Trafford, and their inability to see off so-called lesser opposition ultimately meant that United finished outside the top four. However, they have had no such issues this time around.

If you hold out for an hour against Mourinho’s new-look United then they will just grind you down until you crumble. If you try and play on the front foot then they will just counter attack with devastating effect.

The goals are scored by Romelu Lukaka, who has already netted 11 times since joining from Everton in the summer, and provided by the creative talents of Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the rejuvenated Anthony Martial and the vastly improved Marcus Rashford. Meanwhile, Nemanja Matic, who was a surprise arrival from title rivals Chelsea, has added a new dynamic to the midfield with his power, physical presence and steel making the side more defensively solid.

It is undoubtedly still early in the campaign and there will certainly be sterner tests that Mourinho and United must overcome in the coming months, starting with a trip to Anfield on October 14th. However, the team looks more powerful, imposing and ruthless than ever before – the runaway United train will take some stopping.

One year to learn, one year to win – Guardiola’s football revolution continues

The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City last summer coincided with a new sense of expectancy.

The Spaniard is widely perceived as one of, if not the, best managers in modern football at present following trophy-laden spells with Bayern Munich and Barcelona and there are few coaches in the past decade that have influenced the the very fabric of game in the way that he has. City were appointing a man who was intelligent, revolutionary and a serial winner – there were few that doubted that Guardiola, backed with City’s considered financial power, would take the club onto the next level.

However, his debut season in English football was what can only be described as a severe learning curve. Guardiola opted to provide the squad that he inherited with the opportunity to claim a place in his footballing revolution but, despite ten consecutive victories across all competitions to kick off the season, City ended the campaign without a trophy.

In the summer Guardiola has moved swiftly to correct the issues that undermined the previous campaign. He has invested heavily in new personnel but the squad now looks more balanced, enthralling and exciting than ever before. Guardiola appears to have corrected the goalkeeping problem by bringing in Ederson, although many would argue that it was a problem of his own making having opted to cast aside Joe Hart, whilst the likes of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy have added real quality to the defensive unit. At the other end of the pitch the attacking firepower at City’s disposal is frightening, whilst the fledgling talents of John Stones and Raheem Sterling have continued to improve and develop.

City have kicked off the new campaign with eight wins from their opening nine games in all competitions. In their last seven games alone they have scored a total of 25 goals whilst keeping seven clean sheets – a definitive statement to their rivals that Guardiola has had one year to learn, now he is ready to claim silverware.

At their best, City slice through opponents with glorious ease and when they hit top gear they score almost at will. However, Guardiola has almost instilled a new winning mentality in his squad, assumingly having learnt from his debut season in English football that there are no so-called ‘easy’ games, and the team have already demonstrated that they can win ugly and grind out results.

Against Bournemouth they netted a last minute winner when it appeared that they were set to drop vital points early in the campaign. Even against West Bromwish Albion (in the Carabao Cup) and Shakhtar Donetsk (in the Champions League), when the team were not playing fluently and were far from being at their best, City still found a way to win. There is a new found resilience and air of determination around the Etihad Stadium that suggests that another season without winning a trophy is unacceptable.

Guardiola’s footballing revolution at City appears to be in full flow. After having one year to learn, the forthcoming twelve months appear to be earmarked for one thing – winning.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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English Premier League

Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City justified and Tottenham must learn lessons

The England international has won the silverware he craved at Manchester City.

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Manchester City finally wrapped up the Premier League title yesterday evening, without kicking a ball. Manchester United’s shock loss to West Brom at Old Trafford gave City an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League table.

For one City player, it was the justification of a big decision made last summer.

Kyle Walker made it clear to former employers Tottenham Hotspur that he wanted to leave the club last summer. The England international was subsequently dropped for Kieran Trippier and sold. City paid Tottenham a total transfer package reported to be in the region of £54 million by The Times.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The motivation behind Walker’s exit was often questioned by Tottenham fans. He made it clear that his main reason behind leaving City was to win silverware, something that was not happening at Tottenham. However, in terms of form, Spurs had been the better team than City over the previous two seasons.

It saw some fans suggest Walker left the club for the money. Forbes suggested Walker doubled his Tottenham wages with the move to Manchester.

Now, Walker can certainly feel his move was justified. After years of near misses at Tottenham, playing under Pep Guardiola has helped him pick up both the Premier League and League Cup winners’ medals this season.

Undoubtedly, the money will have had something to do with Walker’s move. But he also clearly felt his chances of winning trophies were improved at the Etihad.

(<> at Wembley Stadium on March 27, 2018 in London, England.

It is a sickener for Tottenham fans, but one they will have to take on the chin. Instances like this certainly highlight how tough Tottenham will have it trying to pick up the Premier League trophy whilst always fighting a losing battle in the wages department.

The FA Cup is still on the cards for this season. Manchester United are Tottenham’s opponents in the semi-final this weekend and Spurs will hope to find some silverware at Wembley this season. That can hopefully be the catalyst toward Tottenham pushing for the Premier League title again next season, and keeping players like Walker happy in North London.

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English Premier League

Title-winning result proves Manchester City shouldn’t sign Jonny Evans

The West Brom captain has had a tough season at The Hawthorns.

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Manchester City are the Premier League champions and have an unlikely source to thank for pushing them over the finish line. Following their 3-1 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley the Cityzens knew that a win for West Brom at Manchester United would hand them the Premier League title. Nobody, however, expected it to happen.

But Jay Rodriguez’s second-half header secured an unlikely win for the Premier League’s bottom club at Old Trafford and it handed City their well-deserved title.

But one player’s absence from the fixture might be of more interest to Manchester City.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

West Brom managed to keep United at bay, without the services of captain Jonny Evans. The former United man missed the game with a minor knee injury. Ahmed Hegazi and Craig Dawson, however, stepped up and put in an excellent performance to keep United at bay.

For many West Brom fans, the club has actually performed better without Evans in recent weeks.

He is, of course, a player who could have been on his way to Manchester City last summer. Pep Guardiola wanted to strengthen is back-line and saw Evans, an experienced Premier League pro, as the perfect option. The Sun reported that City were keen on the player, valued at around £23.5 million by the Baggies.

This summer Evans could be available at a much cheaper price. If West Brom are relegated, the Northern Irishman is available for a fee of just £3 million – as reported by Sky Sports.

(during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Burnley at The Hawthorns on March 31, 2018 in West Bromwich, England.

This week, The Sun claimed that Evans will be snubbing the interest of Arsenal and holding out for Manchester City. However, if there is one thing City should learn from West Brom helping them win the title at the weekend, it is that Evans might not be the man for them.

His form has been questionable this season and on top of that, he was one of four West Brom players who allegedly stole a taxi during a disastrous winter break to Barcelona.

Manchester City signed Aymeric Laporte in January and still have the likes of Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones filling centre-back positions. With that in mind, and given his poor form, it is hard to see why City would bring in Evans at all this summer – even at the bargain price of just £3 million.

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